Massacre at White Church Leaves 11 Dead, 52 Wounded With PM-South Africa-Constitution-Glance
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ Political leaders expressed outrage today over the massacre of 11 white churchgoers, but pressed ahead with debate on a historic draft constitution that will guide the country after apartheid.
The African National Congress, the country’s leading political group, called the killings ″a monstrous crime against humanity″ aimed at derailing efforts at reconciliation.
As talks on the constitution began in Johannesburg, dozens of congregants in Cape Town gathered outside the St. James Church of England, hugging each other, praying and speaking in hushed tones about Sunday evening’s attack.
″You can only imagine that someone out there, somebody very evil, doesn’t want to see peace,″ said Peter Deavalle, who survived the attack, in which men opened fire with assault rifles and lobbed grenades in the church.
Eleven whites were killed and 52 were injured, 10 of them seriously, said police Gen. Nick Snyman.
Hours after the killings in the middle-class suburb, black gunmen killed eight blacks and wounded 14 in the township of Daveyton outside Johannesburg. Twenty other blacks died over the weekend in violence elsewhere, police said.
The ferocity and timing of the attacks underlined the difficulties black and white groups face as they try to win approval of a new constitution and plan peaceful elections.
″If people are not safe in their churches, how are they going to consider going to the polls?″ said Robin Carlisle, a member of Parliament for the liberal Democratic Party.
More than 20 black and white groups met today to begin debating a proposed constitution that would give the country its first government in which the majority blacks are allowed to vote.
The document is designed to lead the country through the first years of democracy after the election in April 1994. The new government would have the job of drafting a final constitution.
The pro-apartheid Conservative Party rejected the draft and said it would not return to the negotiating table. The black conservative Inkatha Freedom Party, which represents mostly Zulus, was expected to follow suit. Both groups have demanded autonomous homelands for their followers, a concept rejected in the draft.
President F.W. de Klerk said the targeting of a church introduced ″a new and horrifying element″ into South Africa’s political violence, which has increased with the pace of negotiations.
The attack in the Cape Town suburb of Kenilworth was the deadliest on white civilians in 10 years. The government offered a $74,000 for information leading to the killers.
Police and witnesses said the assailants barged in a side door of the packed church as the Rev. Ross Anderson was preparing to address more than 1,000 worshipers. The attackers fired AK-47 assault rifles and lobbed at least two hand grenades, sending people diving for cover among the pews.
The dead included three Russian sailors who had joined more than 100 Russian seamen at the service while their ships, the Zefir and the Apogey, were docked at Cape Town.
In the aftermath, bloodstained bibles lay on the floor, pews were overturned, and the aisles were streaked with blood.
″It was an absolute horror,″ said Trevor Adams, one of the survivors.
The church attack made the front pages of most newspapers today.
The attacks in the black township got sparse coverage, a sign of how hardened South Africans have become to the constant violence in black areas.
Politically motivated violence against white civilians was rare until late last year, when radical black groups began a series of ambushes to oppose negotiations with the white minority government.
There have been at least a half-dozen attacks since November that have killed more than 20 whites. In several cases, the Pan Africanist Congress, a radical black nationalist group, has claimed responsibility or been accused of involvement by the police.
PAC spokesman Barney Desai blamed the church massacre on opponents of democracy and said his group would never attack a church.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but radical black groups were considered the most likely suspects.